An excerpt of a sermo preached on February 28 based on Luke 15
In our season of Lent and penitence, this story helps us grow to know that we can’t turn our back on life. It is what we are involved in, in all its messiness and ugliness. You should not think that you will leave this place today never to make another mistake. We will all wonder how we got into this pigsty of our own making. That is real, but does not define us. Rain helps us grow because the sun is attractive, and pulls that nourishment through us as we reach out for God’s grace. We are not defined by the little side detours that cause us heartburn, but rather we are defined by our relationship with a patient God who will welcome us back.
If we know how difficult it was for the brother to eat cake with the runaway, if we let ourselves, we know how difficult it might have been for the parent character in this story. That person at home, had suffered too. Not just the loss of a family member when the immature son left, but the innuendo of unsavory lifestyles and guilt by association. The coffee shops and grocery stores were lit up with gossip about the once proud family, that now has a rogue son squandering the family fortune and name. So...perhaps the boy could return home, if he were to use the back door and arrive after night fall.
But no! The loving grace filled God senses his arrival from a distance and runs down the lane for an embrace that all can see. Not just that but throws a party for the scoundrel who drug the family’s name into the sty.
This is God’s love for God’s people. It bears repeating that love and joy are the central emotions from God. To see God’s people work so hard at it, we may think the central tenants of our faith are judgement and shame. Not so. We have room to grow into our faith, past the pig sty’s of political campaigns, the rains of sadness, loss and being lost, and toward the warmth of God’s intended embrace of all who turn toward love.
The words welcome back at a return, sound like a going back to a place in time that was safe. Yet, growth has happened and things have changed. We know what is at stake, how close the sty’s of sadness can be. We are not returning to a place of our making. We are welcomed back into the embrace of God’s love and mercy.